Guest poem submitted by Catherine Pegg: I haven't seen much Beddoes on your (excellent) site, so I thought I'd contribute some:
(Poem #1542) Song of the Stygian Naiades
Proserpine may pull her flowers, Wet with dew or wet with tears, Red with anger, pale with fears, Is it any fault of ours, If Pluto be an amorous king, And comes home nightly, laden, Underneath his broad bat-wing, With a gentle, mortal maiden? Is it so? Wind, is it so? All that you and I do know Is, that we saw fly and fix 'Mongst the reeds and flowers of Styx, Yesterday, Where the Furies made their hay For a bed of tiger cubs, A great fly of Beelzebub's, The bee of hearts, which mortals name Cupid, Love, and Fie for shame. Proserpine may weep in rage, But, ere I and you have done Kissing, bathing in the sun, What I have in yonder cage, Bird or serpent, wild or tame, She shall guess and ask in vain; But, if Pluto does't again, It shall sing out loud his shame. What hast caught then? What hast caught? Nothing but a poet's thought, Which so light did fall and fix 'Mongst the reeds and flowers of Styx, Yesterday, Where the Furies made their hay For a bed of tiger cubs, - A great fly of Beelzebub's, The bee of hearts, which mortals name Cupid, Love, and Fie for shame.
Notes: Pluto is the Roman God of the Dead (known on the Greek side as Hades). One of his stories is about his kidnapping of Proserpina, Goddess of Spring, and his marriage of her. The Styx is the river separating the living world from the Land of the Dead, and a Naiad is a young lady with no kit on who lives in a river, possibly drowning people. The Furies are three very scary ladies whose business was vengeance on oathbreakers and kinslayers, and Cupid (Eros) is the Roman God of Love. Why do I love this poem? Is it the hilarity sneaking out of a mythological theme? The visuality and oddity of the Furies making a bed for the tiger cubs? The lovely metrical scanning and rhyme that characterises Beddoes' work? All of them, I guess. Beddoes is known for his gory, macabre poetry, but he also did some wonderful love songs, too. Here's another one that I like: How many times do I love thee, dear? Tell me how many thoughts there be In the atmosphere Of a new-fall'n year, Whose white and sable hours appear The latest flake of Eternity; So many times do I love thee, dear. How many times do I love again? Tell me how many beads there are In a silver chain Of evening rain, Unravelled from the tumbling main, And threading the eye of a yellow star: So many times do I love again. It had these beautiful images, and this nice tight metre that we just don't see anymore, dammit. Poetry took a turn for the worse when poets stopped rhyming. Not that there haven't been some wonderful free-verse poems, but it encourages laziness and sloppy technique. Sorry for the rant, there, it's a pet peeve of mine. I think there was an anniversary or festival for Beddoes last year, though don't quote me on that. His life and death were sad, macabre, and funny which, considering his poems, he might have approved of. All the best, Cat.